As a new mom, the focus of my last few months has been based solely around growth and nutrition– the growth of my child, that is. Growth and nutrition are all around us from the growth of a newborn baby, seeds to plants, and to modern civilizations and societies. However, sometimes the waters can get murky when it comes to decision-making related to health and nutrition while at grocery stores. It should not be a huge surprise that companies target their advertising campaigns toward our emotions, and labels can be misleading. Companies want to sell their products, so it’s only natural marketing agencies may exaggerate the benefits of certain products to increase sales.
Often these messages, as well as other outside pressures, can cause #MOMGUILT. There seems to be an overemphasis on buying organic products for optimum infant health. While I appreciate organic products, sometimes the cost associated with them can be a bit prohibitive. All moms want to provide healthy and nutritious foods for their family. However just because some foods may be more expensive, doesn’t mean they’re more nutritious for better overall health than the more economical options. Don’t let #momguilt control your food decisions!
If you are like me, you may wonder what the real differences are between organic and non-organic foods. In a short synopsis, organic foods are grown without GMO seeds, synthetic pesticides, or growth hormones. Typically, this makes us think these foods are grown in a more natural way. This makes the general assumption that the seed is planted in the ground and grows with only what is provided in nature. On the other hand, most consider non-organic foods to be inferior to organic foods. The food industry capitalizes on this perception in advertising and pricing to promote sales. Most often, an organic food will be priced higher than a non-organic food.
We all want to consume safe and healthy food. Marketing companies may often imply buying organic foods is the safer choice for ourselves and our families. As we look at the issue of food safety across all of agriculture, we look at things like toxins, additives, pesticides, and food-borne pathogens. A major misconception about certified organic food is that all of it is pesticide free or chemical free, so we assume they are better for our health. A survey in 1989 found that respondents associated organic produce with no pesticides or chemical residue (Jolly et al. 1989). Once you really dig into organic farming, however, you find that there are approved pesticides that can be used for the same reasons as non-organic farmers use them. There is a list of approved natural-based pesticides and herbicides that organic farmers can use. However, according to CommonGround volunteer and organic farmer Linda Schwarz, certified organic farmers may need to prove the need for pesticide or herbicide use. Other methods may include the use of friendly insects, crop rotation, tillage, cultivation and flame weeding. Many conventional farmers also use crop rotation; however, their soil management often includes no-till methods to help with soil quality.
GMO seeds were developed to solve particular problems. In the case of corn and soybeans some GMOs were developed so that the plant does not appeal to a particular pest. The use of biotechnology, which includes the development and use of GMOs, has greatly reduced the amount of chemicals used to control weeds and pests in conventionally raised crops. GMOs have been proven safe through thousands of reputable research studies spanning decades.
Additionally, pesticide usage, whether synthetic or natural, helps stabilize the agriculture marketplace’s supply by protecting crops from pests that destroy them. For farmers to sell their crops as certified organic, however, they must follow guidelines set by the USDA. Part of the requirement to sell products as organic is that the crop must not be grown in soil that has had synthetic fertilizers or pesticides used within the last three growing seasons. Ultimately, farmers need to decide which production method is right for them. Both groups of farmers grow safe food for their families and yours, while protecting the soil and water for the next generation.
The difference between organic food and conventionally grown food is in the production methods used to produce the food. Both are safe and nutritious. Chemicals used by organic or non-organic farmers have all been tested and approved. In the United States, we celebrate having choices. Organic methods of farming give consumers a choice. Both certified organic farmers and conventional farmers are producing safe food for your family.
The organic food versus non-organic food debate will continue. This debate is fueled by what foods consumers are buying based on characteristics that pertain to nutritional quality, appearances, environmental impacts and chemical usage, to name a few. Remember that the labels and advertising on products are made to encourage you to purchase them. I encourage you to make your food decisions based on the facts and not on the fear that causes #MOMGUILT. We all know we have enough of that already! What we learn about our foods will dictate what characteristics we are subconsciously seeking out when we are walking down the aisles at the grocery store. Taking time to learn about what is being promoted will help you make informed decisions.
Bottom line: Buy the products your family enjoys, that fit your budget, and know that you have made choices that are safe for your family.